Thursday, January 29, 2009

A couple of short Jewish management stories

A Farmer’s Prayer

Zalman Pozner, who owned a large estate in Covari, was one of the rare Jews allowed to own land in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe. Hoping to improve the lot of his fellow Jews, he provided several poor Jewish families with land and equipment so that they might earn their living as farmers.

Rabbi Joshua of Kotna once visited the estate and Zalman took him on a tour of the farm. Rabbi Joshua noticed a striking difference between the fields on Zalman’s estate and the fields of the neighboring Gentile farmers. On Zalman’s land, shriveled crops straggled in barren furrows, while bountiful crops flourished in the verdant fields of the neighbors.

“Why are the Gentile farmers so much more successful than the Jewish farmers?” asked Rabbi Joshua.

“You can see for yourself,” replied Zalman, “that the Gentile and the Jew both do the same work in the field. The Gentile plows and the Jew plows, the Gentile sows and the Jew sows, the Gentile prays and the Jew prays. The difference, I believe, is in their prayers. What does the Gentile pray for? That the rains should fall at the proper time, that the wheat should grow tall, that there should be a blessing upon the threshing floor. But what does the Jew pray for? ‘Please, Lord, may it be Your will that my plow should strike buried treasure, so that I no longer need to earn my living as a farmer.’”

The Unlocked Gate

The Talmud tells us that, in Heaven, the gates of salvation are never locked – they are always open to the prayers of the broken-hearted. Rabbi Simcha Bunim of P’shischa once asked his Hasidim, “If the gates are always open, then why did God put gates there? What purpose do they serve?”

He explained, “The gates keep out those who do not even try. Seeing the gates, some immediately assume that the way is barred, and they turn back. If only they would give the slightest push, God Himself would swing the gates open wide and clear the way before them.”

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